Bar.on presents the world’s first beer printer

June 21, 2023 Article BioVox

Instantly turning water into beer may sound like a biblical miracle, but that’s exactly what Belgian start-up Bar.on is now doing. Their ‘molecular beer printer’ takes mere seconds to turn water into different styles of beer, with customized bitterness, alcohol content, fruitiness, and sweetness. Backed by science, the company is on a mission to make the beer industry more sustainable and hopes to soon roll out its molecular beer mixing technology to different markets.

By Liesbeth Aerts

Molecular mixing

For several years, it has been possible for beer enthusiasts to print an image on the label, or even onto the foam, of a fresh pint of beer. But Belgian start-up Bar.on is taking printing to the next level: building printers that can produce the beer itself. Much like a regular printer, the innovative beer printer uses cartridges, but instead of ink, they contain compounds that capture different aspects of the flavor and aroma of beer. With just a few clicks, you can determine the combination of these compounds, which are simply mixed with tap water and ethanol – et voila, there’s your beer!

Founders Dirk Standaert and Valentijn Destoop worked together with professor Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU Leuven) to distill the compounds. Verstrepen is an international expert on the evolution of yeast and has worked with different breweries to engineer strains and formulate recipes.

Read more about Kevin Verstrepen’s SUPERYEAST project!

“More than 250 beers were characterized molecularly, and we have tested hundreds of compounds in different combinations to create our recipes,” explains Bar.On’s lead scientist Sofie Bossaert.

The next challenge was to develop a manageable and sensible way to insert these compounds into cartridges that would fit a compact and practical household appliance. “Our prototype has six small flavor mix cartridges and in the machine itself are three larger containers, containing a malt mixture, ethanol and water – though the idea is to replace the latter by a direct connection to the tap.”

The flavor mixes can be combined in different proportions to yield a wide range of different beers. “Ink printers typically have only four cartridges – blue, yellow, magenta and black – but combined, they can produce hundreds of colors and shades. It works the same way with our flavor cartridges,” says Bossaert.

Planet-friendly beer

The underlying mission of the startup company is to make the beer industry more sustainable. They believe that in the face of climate change and environmental degradation, the sector has to reduce its carbon footprint and packaging waste.

Bar.on co-founder Dirk Standaert elaborates: “Beer is composed of more than 90% water – the same substance running freely from our tap. If we enable people to recreate beer at molecular level with tap water, we can significantly reduce the shipping of branded water, the related carbon footprint, and the need for packaging.”

Tastes just like the real deal

To some beer lovers it sounds almost sacrilegious to skip the brewing and fermentation process – an art rooted in century-old tradition and craftsmanship. Is it really possible for a printed beer to taste as good as one from a regular tap? Bar.on’s founders claim this is indeed the case: “Our molecular beer recipes have been thoroughly tested, blind-tasted, and enjoyed by professional beer experts.”

In April, Bar.on presented its One Tap prototype – a molecular beer printer that can produce blonde, brown, IPA and triple beers, as well as non-alcoholic variants – at the international Trends for Brewing conference in Ghent, Belgium. Delegates got a first chance to try out a tailor-printed beer and the reactions have been positive.

“The best feedback we received was from brewmasters who told us they couldn’t taste the difference between a traditionally brewed beer and our printed beer.” –  Sofie Bossaert

“I tried two-non alcoholic beers,” one visitor wrote on social media. “They were amazingly good, refreshing and [had] distinct fruit notes.” According to Bar.on, their alcoholic IPA received the most favorable feedback.

“The best feedback we received was from brewmasters who told us they couldn’t taste the difference between a traditionally brewed beer and our printed beer,” says Bossaert. “This means we are on the right track with our technology.”

Healthier than a standard brew

One of Bar.on’s major target market segments is that of alcohol-free beer, explains COO Leentje Croes. “The market for low and non-alcoholic beer is expanding rapidly, with consumers seeking better-tasting options. It’s also where our molecular mixing technology offers the most added value.”

Traditionally, there are two ways you can make alcohol-free beer. One is to brew beer and extract the alcohol at the end. Alternatively, you halt the fermentation process early to prevent alcoholization. “Both methods cause a large part of the aroma to be lost,” says Bossaert. “Our technology can sidestep this problem, as alcohol and aroma compounds are added separately.”

“Our very first batch of alcohol-free recipes is already rated better than currently available alternatives, and we’ve only just begun.” – Leentje Croes

“Our very first batch of alcohol-free recipes is already rated better than currently available alternatives, and we’ve only just begun,” adds Croes. “This gives us confidence that we can offer products that will really please consumers.”

In early May, Flanders’ FOOD and Bar.on hosted ‘Alcohol-Free Beer Reinvented’ in Ghent, a round-table event to map out the challenges and innovative opportunities in the sector. “It was very nice to see that traditional brewers share our vision for the sector’s future, in the sense that all players envision a move towards more sustainable production and more tailored and functionalized product options,” says Bossaert.

Besides low- or non-alcoholic beer, another way to make beer healthier is to lower its caloric content. With molecular mixing, the flexibility is suddenly endless, according to Bossaert: “Molecular mixing enables us to add healthy ingredients and natural aromas that are impossible to achieve by traditional brewing. In addition to low-calorie beer, we’re thinking of beer with vitamins or with energizing components.”

Bar.on beers coming to you soon

“We have been able to accomplish a lot in the fifteen months since Bar.On’s launch,” says Croes. Bar.on raised €1.8 million in seed capital last year from a range of different investors, including Astanor Ventures, Exceptional Ventures, Thia Ventures, Food Ventures, Wolfman.one, and a private investor. It also received funding through VLAIO. The team is currently raising further seed funding to scale up operation and production capacity.

In addition to their One Tap device, designed for use at home, the company is working on a version specifically suited for bars. The ‘One Tap Pro’ will feature more flavor options to produce even more beer varieties.

“We’ve gained a lot of experience in developing the One Tap prototype, says Croes. “The design of our larger appliance, the One Tap Pro, is in its final stages. Now we are looking for partners that can help us to produce and market the units. Our priority now is to get our beer to consumers. That is why we are preparing the launch of a new webshop where you will be able to order your own printed beer.”

The webshop is expected to open this fall. “In time to buy molecularly mixed beer as a Christmas present,” Croes hints.


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